Horror is dead. It's time to put the nail in the coffin.
But we all know this already, just look at the last decade of horror movies if you're not convinced. Sure there were some fantastic standouts; some really solid offerings, but like the cliché that has become associated with the horror film, that's just the last scare before the credits roll.
Now, I'm not a filmmaker nor do I have any connections to the film industry. I'm not a film student, a historian, or even much of a blogger, for that matter; but what I am is a fan.
I'm the target audience for a horror film. Not in the sense of what a corporate film producer, whose only interest is making money off of the next bullshit “tween” film franchise, considers a target audience (or rather a target market, because an audience, you entertain; a market, you sell to). But I am the target audience. I'm the person who gives these films any validity, the person who the auteurs make the films for and if you're reading this (and you don't already know me in my personal life and are just doing me a favor) then you are too.
So, as a horror fan, I must admit that as time goes on and the more I know, the less fearful I become. Fear is just a four-letter word that, quite frankly, is peddled off more effectively by the evening news than anything John Carpenter has done in the last 15 years. George Romero, Wes Craven, Tobe Hooper; none of these guys got anything on CNN.
The fact is technology has changed our society in the last 20 years faster than it has in the 50 before (those aren't actual statistics by the way, but you know what I mean...it's changed...a lot...like...a-fucking-lot). Which means, we know too much to be scared. And if we don't know it, we could easily look it up on our cell phones. Information has shown a light on the creepy little hiding spots of our imaginations. There's no mystery anymore and to me that's the scariest thing of all.
Horror feeds on our fears. Our fears (in the context of superstition) are developed through our ignorance. That's why The Blair Witch Project worked, cause if you know the Blair Witch is not real, you don't give a shit about that movie. You realize that you’re paying to watch someone’s fake home video.
When there are no dark corners anymore you can see that nothing is hiding; you just see the reality, which is sometimes worse than the fantasy and no way as entertaining. Therefore all the old mythologies die; they become irrelevant...it's the secret reason why vampires don't like sunlight.
Horror tales are our morality plays, our modern mythology. They started out of our suspicions of the unknown and the desire to control our fears. I'm not going to give you a history lesson, as I stated I'm no historian, but if you look at the horror film time-line you could easily see the decline of our naïveté.
We've gone from adaptations of folklore and Gothic horror, to super science gone wrong and aliens and finally serial killers and torture. With each decade the more light we shed on the corners, the less fantastic horror films have become.
But information overload is not the problem. Shedding the light on some old dark corners is nothing new. This loosely presented hypothesis has been posed many times before.
Peter Bogdonavich makes this very statement in his great and under appreciated film, Targets. In it, you’re shown a day in the life of a retiring horror film star and a psychotic mass murder and what happens when these two “monsters” finally cross paths. I would divulge more but I'd rather you watch it for yourself, if you haven't already.
So what's the problem?
The problem is, no one is looking for new dark corners. That's why we're seeing so many remakes of classic (and better) movies. That's why we're seeing more foreign horror films—and then (needlessly) remaking them!
It's the proverbial ouroboros; the snake eating it’s own tail. Horror is eating itself alive. Eventually, it will have to recreate itself.
It's no secret that horror is a young person's genre. Look at the careers of all the filmmakers I mentioned above. They were young and full of ideas, ambition, and a lot of piss and vinegar. They made movies that redefined horror. They made movies that were so ahead of their time that they failed, only to be successful when everybody else caught up to them!
And now they're old as fuck.
They've seen too much of the world, played the game for far too long, and are now tired. They once represented a small portion of the counter-culture but have now become the ruling class and must be overthrown, like in any good revolution. They should be serving as inspiration only; not source material.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to offend, these guys are masters of their craft...they created icons and helped shape the public lexicon of today...but they are old...old as fuck...I mean seriously, have you seen John Carpenter's picture on Wikipedia? He looks like fucking Lo Pan. How crazy is that? He looks like a 2,000-year-old sorcerer that he made up 25 years ago, like his face is going to start glowing and lights are going to shoot out of his mouth; that shit is nuts.
Sorry, but someone should really change that picture…anyway...where was I? Oh right...
So, where are the young revolutionaries of today? Why are filmmakers copying the old guys’ shit? Why aren't they making their own noise? These guys already changed horror once. They already saw that their reality was more frightening than what was shown to them on screen and then they showed it to everyone. They didn't give a shit about "playing the game" or "making moves" in Hollywood; they had the need to create something and acted on it.
George Romero already asked the big questions of his day; he held up a mirror to our society. Why are we seeing his movies remade, over and over again? If horror films serve as a social mirror then what does that say about us when the reflection isn’t showing anything new? Anything revolutionary?
Who's going to bring in the new age of terror? Who's going to make the new mythologies? Who's going to ask us the new big questions and truly scare us again?
Unfortunately, I don’t have that answer, but if the few, substantially daring movies of the last 10 years are any indication of the next decade; If films like Grace, Martyrs, Dead Girl, Splice, Dumplings, and various other original and/or thought provoking (whether or not they are “good” is purely subjective) movies can serve as the new inspiration, then I’m looking forward to the future.
The “Horrorboros” is hungry. I truly hope the filmmakers of the next decade don’t stop at the tail but go straight for the head.
Horror is undead.
'til next time...